July 20, 2005

Consuming and Composing Meme

I haven't done a meme in a while, and this one made me hungry. Go see Academic Coach for the story behind the meme.

1) What would you like to eat when you go out with Todd (he's a food critic and it's free meal)?

First, we begin with warm bread baked locally by an Italian family who have been here now for five generations, and who really know how to make delicious bread. The bread will come with a generous bowl of hot tomato dipping oil. Few things in life taste better, when you are really hungry, than a crust of fresh bread dipped into thick spicy tomato oil. The dark red tomato dipping oil is served hot, and you have to stir it occasionally to keep the golden olive oil from separating from the thick tomato sauce.

During this leisurely appetizer, we pause to absorb the atmosphere of the restaurant. The brick walls are centuries old: the big glass windows look out at a courtyard where people can sit in the summer. It's an intimate courtyard, perfect for poetry readings or performances by local musicians. The tables in the restaurant are small and bunched together so that customers sit elbow to elbow.

Next comes the salad. All kinds of greens, with some redleaf lettuce tossed in for sweetness, and locally grown veggies, diced into bite-size pieces. Black olives and hot peppers, of course. The dressing is simple, olive oil and vinegar, so that we can taste the veggies.

The soup is minestrone, a tomato base, thick and flavorful, lots of garlic and onion, with kidney beans, chick peas, and round noodles.

Next comes a big plate, with three different side orders on it. Artichoke hearts with some kind of sauce - oh, we will let the food critic worry about what is in the sauce. Mmmm. So good. Brocolli with garlic sauce, a nicely spicy addition to offset the more bland artichoke hearts. Then a carrot and raisin salad that makes the plate colorful, because the visual is important here.

The next plate served sounds simple: beans and rice. But this place knows how to blend the spices to make beans and rice a gourmet dish.

The best part of a vegan meal, of course, is that if you eat slow enough and savor your food, you somehow still have room for dessert: chocolate ecstasy cake. Yes, it's vegan, and served with hot herbal tea, ecstatic is the right adjective to use for this dining experience.

2) Why is writing important in your life?

Writing is like food, sleep, or sex. It's essential to my life at a very basic level. A need, not a luxury. I've considered myself a writer since I was about seven years old. I've kept a journal since then. I have stacks of old journals.

I have to write. I don't care much whether or not anyone reads what I write, but writing makes my life richer, keeps me in balance, helps me become the person I want to be. Writing is how I think through conflict, how I figure out what I am feeling, how I reflect on my experiences, and how I figure out what I value.

When I write, I can be whoever I want to be at that moment. I can be funny, or angry, or sad. I can be sappy, and corny, and sentimental. I can let all the deep sadness of the world wash over me. I can be a playful little kid, or an old wise person. I can be afraid, and I can be powerful. The words let me choose what role I want to play.

My journals are full of different voices. My blog persona is in there. So are some of my poetry voices. My teacher voice, my parenting voice, my academic voice, my sarcastic voice. I have angry rants, and sometimes touching narratives. Language allows me to accept and express all these different parts of myself.


Running2Ks said...

You have made me completely hungry. You MUST be a good writer :)

Ianqui said...

How come I never knew you're a vegan? Is your whole family vegan?

jo(e) said...

Ianqui: Well, I guess I haven't talked about food on my blog that often. I'm vegan, and my daughter is vegetarian. I have a vegetarian niece as well. My husband and sons eat meat but not very often since we don't often have meat in the house. The boys do drink cow's milk. I am the only one who sticks to the soy milk.

I stopped eating meat about nine years ago and became vegan in September of 2001.

Oh, and one of my favorite things about visiting New York City is that there are lots of vegan dining options. New York and California are definitely the best places to visit for vegan food. When I go to the south or the midwest, I have trouble finding stuff to eat.

Ianqui said...

True about NYC. There are probably 3 or 4 vegan restaurants within a 5 block radius of my apt. On the Upper East Side there's a gourmet vegan restaurant (on the model of SF's Millenium. Mmmmm) I definitely can't complain about the cuisine options here!

Friday Mom said...

Writing has been a lifeline for me. Although I do some vocationally, that's not the writing that's essential for me. The kind that enables me to put language to the important things that stay buried otherwise, helping me, as you say, become the person I want to be-that's the writing I can't live without. Doesn't matter to me one bit how good it is in the eyes of others. It's for me alone. The other stuff, what I write for work, sometimes keeps me up at night fretting about whether or not it's good enough.

Repressed Librarian said...

I am a new reader to your blog, and I find it so refreshing. Your comments about why you write are like a more eloquoent version of what I said on the topic, and it was so nice to see some wonderful writing about savoring a vegan meal (I, too, am vegan). Thanks for adding some quality words to my too-often meaningless world.

No Chaser said...


And, yes, the Midwest (I am finding aftere a recent move from the West Coast) is okay on vegetarian and really bad on vegan. It's all cheese and cream and some more cheese.

I totally identify with your "why I write" section. Well-put.

academic coach said...


Thanks jo(e),
as with many of your posts, I feel as though I was right there with you. I've been savoring your vacation, and your children, and most of all, your writing, since I first discovered your blog.

How lucky so many of us are that your journal is now available to us. Now I'd like to get my hands on those earlier, paper versions (or do you still write an even more private paper version as well?)

Mieke said...

What the hell is a meme anyway? What is the origin of this word?

jo(e) said...

Academic coach: Oh, I still keep a handwritten journal. A blog could never replace that kind of writing.

Mieke: As far as I can tell, a meme is an idea, or bunch of questions, or concept that gets posted on one blog and then spreads to other blogs as other bloggers pick it up. When I first saw the word, I assumed it came from the French word meme so that is how I have been pronouncing it. But I have heard other bloggers pronounce it meem which makes me think it comes from somewhere else.

Mieke said...

I have been pronouncing the French way too. Maybe it's like Dooce, a totally made up word which is pronounced differently by every one who reads it.

Anonymous said...

The term and concept of meme (pronounced [miːm] in IPA; from the Greek word μνήμη for 'memory') first appeared in the 1976 book by Richard Dawkins, The Selfish Gene.

So says Wikipedia anyway. 'meem' it is.

jo(e) said...

Oh, but pronouncing it the French way just sounds so much classier ....

Mieke said...

I am with you. I like the French version better, alas, I will have to change my ways.